When Lightning Strikes…

Friday, 08.03.07

Ok, I must start off by saying that it was a real treat to be in touch with John and have the unique opportunity of posing him a few questions. He was absolutely polite, humble and humorous in his responses. I think it is safe to say he is as dedicated as a mailman when delivering the news: he brings CNN viewers the latest stories come rain, sleet or shine… or lightning!

We wish to sincerely thank him for taking the time to provide us with answers to questions that ranged from war to music. What he had to say will not leave you disappointed. I know I wasn’t.

Now, without further ado…

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Question from Julie: What music/band/singers are you into?

John: Julie I am a bit of a freak. Classic rock – from the Who and the Stones to Elvis Costello – is what I grew up on. But I love classical music and the symphony (I need calming) and because of Noah and Hannah I get and (mostly) enjoy my share of Green Day and Fergie and so forth. So I am all over the place.

Question from Joan: After 10 years with CNN, is there anyone that you interview or a job that CNN asks you to do that still makes you nervous?

John:Every live shot makes me nervous Joan. Some of course more than others. When it is a President or Vice President, the worry is being prepared, yet not so stuck on your notes that you don’t listen and react to what they say. “

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“I’m always skittish when it is a tragedy like Katrina or the tsunami – you want to hear the emotions and the horror because it is part of the story, but I worry about exploiting people who are in pain.”

Question from Jeannemarie: What are the top 5 books you would recommend to someone?

John:My older sister is Jeanne Marie – two words! Like music, I am all over the map Jeanmarie. I love history and recently and belatedly fished David McCullough’s book on John Adams. (meaning I put it down for long spurts several times). I enjoy John Irving (Until I Find You most recently). I am negligent lately but used to love re-reading Shakespeare. Crime and Punishment is a dark classic. Night by Elie Weisel – absolute horror captured in remarkably tight disciplined writing.”

Question from Jeannemarie: What past story would you most like to revisit for a follow-up piece?

John: “I would love to go back to Banda Aceh and try to find some of the people I met after the tsunami and see if they have been able to find at least relative peace. I also am fascinated with the stagnant but critical politics of the Middle East; I spent a lot of time in Saudi Arabia during the first Persian Gulf war and met some would-be reformers who were clearly afraid to do much.”

(Note from Millie: you can read more about Banda Aceh here)

Question from Mary: I really enjoy when you get the opportunity to fill in on The Situation Room and AC360. As a fill-in anchor, how much influence do you have in what stories do or don’t make the broadcast?

John:My joke Mary is that it takes a special man to be Wolf Blitzer one day and Anderson Cooper the next! Both are wonderful people and gifted journalists and I am lucky to fill in from time to time. As for my influence, it depends on the day and how much lead time I had to plan. (Sometimes I know a month in advance; sometimes a day or less.) You will notice AC360, for example, might be a little more Washington focused when the Washington guy fills in. But it varies depending on the news of the day and how much time I have had to make some suggestions. (I don’t always win!)”

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Question from Jeanne: What advice would you give to someone who is starting out in this profession and what requirements to be aware of when applying for a job with the news media?

John: “Jeanne, I often if not always disappoint students who think TV news is the end of be all of journalism and ask how can they get my job. I urge them to go to a small town and write for the newspaper or one of the wire services. Learning the basics in a good, competitive setting is the best foundation. I started as an intern with The AP in Providence , RI and it was the best learning experience I could have asked for. Cops and robbers. Courts. Politics.”

Question from Millie: What is your proudest moment as a journalist?

John: “It’s hard Millie to pick one moment because I have been so lucky to have a very varied career in terms of the stories I have covered and places visited, and so so so so so lucky to have had the friendship, mentoring and support of wonderful colleagues. If I had to pick one, I guess it would be my assignment to cover the first Gulf War. I was the first AP reporter sent to Saudi Arabia and ended up building a large operation there at a relatively young age. And we tested the tight military coverage rules as much as we could. I snuck into a town called Khafji one night during a battle and was able to provide some exclusive coverage that made the US military angry because they were not telling the truth about US involvement. It was dicey. A pampers moment. NBC interviewed me a day after I got out of there and my mother saw it (and me talking about the gunfire and grenades) and sent me a short note that still makes me cry, telling me my father would be proud of me, now please come home.

Question from Millie: What is the funniest thing that has happened to you while live on the air?

John:Hmmmmmm. Depends how one defines funny Millie. In my early days I literally sweat through my shirts I was so scared. Wasn’t funny at the time, but it is now! Once at the White House there was a raging thunder and lightning storm and the anchors kept asking me questions. I am told it was half funny half frightening. I am not sure I was funny enough to carry the moment, but I once did the Daily Show from the White House lawn. If you watch at all you know John Stewart fakes it – their “reporters” stand in front of fake backdrops. Well he saw the real deal behind me and we had a good laugh about it. Again, I was a little nervous and so probably not as funny as it should have been.”

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Question from Millie: Having been in Iraq several times, what message would you say is the most poignant that has been shared with you by the servicemen and women you speak with?

John: “I think the most poignant is when the troops talk about young children they barely know because they have been deployed a couple of times. I cant imagine how hard that must be. I finished an hourlong program on military readiness a couple of months ago, and during that project met an Army sergeant named Chris Tucker. He is in Iraq for the third time now despite two feet that need surgergy, failing hearing, and anger and depression issues. He knows he needs help and he has a great wife who is worried to death about him. But he rose from private to sergeant and says with the Army stretched thin he feels he needs to be there for the troops for whom he is responsible, and who count on his experience to keep them safe. More than a half dozen men in his unit have been killed since they went back just a short time ago. Whatever you think of the war, the bravery and dedication of the troops is inspiring. The Tuckers get dinner on me when he gets back, and it wont be soon enough.”

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13 Comments

Filed under General Discussion

13 responses to “When Lightning Strikes…

  1. mebz72

    This post was so aptly titled.

    Mr. King- if you happen to read this- thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions! It was an absolute treat. And thank you also for all of your hard work, it is not in vain, I assure you. I can’t speak for anybody else, but I for one always feel more informed by your reports, something I’m most appreciative of. Thank you again.

    You too, Millie, great work. Thanks.

  2. milliepip

    You are welcome. He really was, as I posted earlier, very gracious about the whole thing. I was positively flattered that he was willing to do this for us.

  3. Mavis

    Millie, you rock!

  4. milliepip

    Thanks Mavis, but I think it is John who rocks for being in touch and taking a moment out of his busy schedule to do this. He didn’t have to bother with our little obscure corner of cyberspace but he did… which speaks a lot, if you ask me.

  5. Jeanne Kulatunge

    John – I would also like to thank you for taking the time to answer a few of our questions and for your advice to me. It meant a lot to me coming from someone who’s work I admire. I have worked as an Administrative Professional for almost 20 years and have decided to make a career change (I’m a little nervous) in a field that I’ve been interested in since I started my job in a Public Relations department. (Spend as much time with your kids as possible – one day they are small and with a blink of an eye, they are going off to college.)

    Thanks again, Millie, for all your work coordinating our questions/answers!!
    It’s much appreciated!

  6. Millie, this is so cool. Thank you for getting John to answer those questions. I think this just shows how good of a person John is. He could have easily blown this off and said he was too busy, but he didn’t. I enjoyed reading his answers. It gave some insight into just who he is.

  7. Doraemon

    I found my way over here from an Anderson blog. Very cool here! That was so nice of John to answer the questions! So John has been on The Daily Show….does anyone know if it was recent?

  8. milliepip

    It must not have been recent because John left the White House beat a few years back.

  9. That was awesome that John answered your questions. They were good ones too. I’ve always enjoyed him subbing for Anderson. He’s got a really nice calm and relaxed demeanor

  10. Doraemon

    Thanks Millie. I’m a huge Daily Show fan so i’ve got most of the episodes since 2003. I’ll go through them too look for it.

  11. Great questions! It was a real treat getting to read his answers. Starting a blog in honor of John King was fabulous idea. Thanks for filling the void for us John King fans!

  12. milliepip

    You are welcome, BA! I absolutely agree, there was a void. I just couldn’t understand why no one was doing something like this, hence my reason for wanting to start up the blog. BTW, I’ve read “Night” as well… couldn’t put it down and finished it in just a few days. Fascinating is a quote from Mr. Wiesel’s preface: “Did I write it [Night] so as not to go mad or, on the contrary, to go mad in order to understand the nature of madness…”

  13. phillyjulie

    I have a question I wished I’d asked: Is the press in this country really and truly free?

    John, this will probably be one of those posts that make you blush, but it takes a special man to be John King. Thank you so much for satisfying our curiosity about you.

    I especially admire the empathy you show in your reporting and the truth you work to bring to us, we the people. Please, please keep the pressure on ‘the powers that be’. IMO you are one of the few journalists that have the integrity and the respect in the news industry to take it to them in these Orwellian times where the lines of truth and reality are blurred.

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